The news is more evidence of the close ties between Israel, the United States and Mr Suleiman, who is tipped to replace Hosni Mubarak as Egypt’s president. The close relationship has emerged from American diplomatic cables leaked to the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph. Mr Suleiman is Israel’s preferred candidate to replace 82-year-old Mr Mubarak. A secret hotline between Mr Suleiman and the Israelis was said to be “in daily use”, according to US diplomatic cables. The pledge to cleanse Sinai was made by Mr Suleiman to Yuval Diskin of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) after he complained about the smuggling of weapons across the border with Gaza. According to a cable sent in November, 2007, Mr Diskin met Rob Danin, the US deputy assistant secretary of state, and Mark Kimmitt, the deputy assistant defence secretary, in Tel Aviv and told them that the Sinai peninsula had now become a “weapons and explosives warehouse” for operations in Gaza, Egypt and Israel. The cable said: “Diskin told Danin and Kimmit [sic] that the ISA had, on several occasions provided Omar Suleiman, chief of Egypt’s intelligence services, with detailed intelligence on the names of smugglers.
“In 2005, Diskin said he met personally with Suleiman in Egypt, at which time Suleiman promised personally to take responsibility for 'cleansing the Sinai’.” The cable continued: “Despite these promises and Israeli offers to initiate joint operations, Diskin said Egypt has not acted to eliminate the smuggling networks. In Diskin’s view, there is a core policy problem in that the Egyptians saw themselves as the primary mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians, and are careful not to alienate either side.”
Mr Suleiman worked hard to position himself as the main Egyptian link with Israel. According to the cable, he was blocking attempts by the Israelis to form links with other members of the Cairo government. This was, according to Mr Diskin, because of Mr Suleiman’s “desire to remain the sole point of contact for foreign intelligence”. The efforts paid off. In 2008, Mr Suleiman was named as Israel’s preferred successor to Mr Mubarak and the new secret direct hotline was in daily use. By early 2009, Dan Harel, deputy chief of staff at the Israel Defence Staff, was reporting that “on the intelligence side under Suleiman co-operation is good”. A cable reported: “Co-operation against smuggling is better with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman than it is with Egyptian Military Commander Field Marshall Tantawi.” In May, 2009, in a meeting with the Americans, Mr Suleiman was telling them of how Egypt had made the border with Gaza more secure. This included “destroying tunnels, and erecting underground metal barricades”, although he “acknowledged that the smuggling could never be fully stopped”. Mr Suleiman has already won the backing of Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, to lead the “transition” to democracy after nearly three weeks of demonstrations calling for Mr Mubarak to resign.
Earlier this week, David Cameron spoke to Mr Suleiman and urged him to take “bold and credible steps” to show the world that Egypt was embarking on an “irreversible, urgent and real” transition to democracy.